Monday, March 07, 2016



by email from EdHealth: Student Wellness Report
An online newsletter produced by EdSource
with support from The California Endowment 


March 7,
Issue 47
School Discipline
In restorative justice circles, a chance for students to lead
Odalys Rodriguez, peer facilitator
Odalys Rodriguez, an 8th grader at Oakland's Edna Brewer Middle School, said she applied to be a peer restorative justice leader because "I really wanted to help anyone in any way I could." Meshack Williams, a 7th grader at Edna Brewer and a peer leader, said the restorative justice circles he has facilitated address such student concerns as: "Are you feeling depressed? Do you question your gender?"

As California and the U.S. Department of Education press schools to reduce their rates of suspension and expulsion, restorative justice has emerged as an alternative disciplinary method for holding students accountable for behavioral infractions. But it's also an avenue for developing student leaders.

Meshack Williams, peer facilitator
At an introductory workshop on restorative justice convened by EdSource's Educators Network for Effective School Discipline, in partnership with Oakland Unified School District, last month, 25 administrators, counselors and educators heard about Oakland's restorative justice program and attended a panel discussion from a team from Edna Brewer Middle School -- Rodriguez and Williams along with Kyle McClerkins, restorative justice facilitator, and Mukta Sambrani, assistant principal. (Watch the panel discussion here.)

David Yusem, manager of the Restorative Justice Program at Oakland Unified, described restorative justice as "a set of principles and practices" designed to create a sense of community and address student misconduct. The goal is to "repair harm and restore relationships" between all parties, including students, teachers, staff members and parents. "It's a culture shift, a paradigm shift," he said.
Kyle McClerkins, school facilitator

And student involvement is key. "My main goal is to get the students to buy-in so the adults will buy-in," McClerkins said.

More than 75 students at Edna Brewer applied in the fall to be in the peer restorative justice program, and about 20 were selected. As part of the screening process, candidates were interviewed by a group of three to 10 people -- administrators, parents and other students -- as well as by teachers. Then comes two school days of training with McClerkins in how to run community building circles. Over time, the students will learn how to run circles that deal with student conflict.

"I look for students who have great leadership skills," McClerkins said. "It does not matter your socioeconomic background, your ethnicity, your grades. I look for all students."
Mukta Sambrani, assistant principal

Sambrani said the student leaders have been effective at Edna Brewer and have contributed to a drop in suspension rates. In 2013-14 and 2014-15, suspension rates dropped "dramatically," she said. This year, the rates are up a bit because of infractions that had to be dealt with through suspension, she said, and as they work with incoming students to bring them into a culture of restorative practices.

Restorative Justice in Oakland Schools: Implementation and Impacts
Video of Restorative Welcome and Reentry Circle in an Oakland School, 2014
Join EdSource's Educators Network for Effective School Discipline.

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